When things looked bleak, Leander impressed.
The Lions rallied from a seven-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime at home Tuesday night and dominated the extra period to beat Vista Ridge 65-61 in the first game of the district schedule.
“We were resilient,” Leander head coach Clint Bradley said. “They understand that we can’t shut down when you face a deficit. When these guys were sophomores we had a lot of them on the varsity and they understand that we can stay together and keep fighting.”
Leander rebounded a missed free throw with less than 30 seconds left and Kristian Murphy hit a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime. The Lions outscored the Rangers 14-10 in OT, including going 9-for-10 from the free throw line.
Chase Cotton led the Lions with 20 points, Kobe Thompson scored 17 and JP Stevens added 12 points on four 3-pointers. Murphy and Cody Bayer scored six points piece.
Aaron Gregg was the high scorer of the game with 32 points for Vista Ridge. Brandon Taylor scored 14 points and Bryant Burton scored 10 points.
“We’ve got to realize that if it’s the first three minutes or the next three minutes, you still have to execute,” Vista Ridge Coach Clint Anderson said. “Anytime you make bad passes, it’s going to give the other team another opportunity weather you’re up seven or it’s tied.”
Stevens hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and Lenader jumped out to an early 10-2 lead, but Vista Ridge cut the lead to just six points at the end of the first. Gregg scored eight points in the second quarter and Vista Ridge trailed 29-26 at the half.
The Rangers came out in the second half and took their first lead of the game and continued to push the tempo early in the fourth and pushed their lead to 10 points. But Leander didn’t quit and forced turnovers to feat back in the game.
Anderson said no one player wanted to be the one to make a mistake that cost them the game, instead, there were a few mistakes in a row that let the Lions back in the game.
“We just made bad passes and bad decisions,” he said. “We just forced a lot of things and our mind wasn’t right. We came into their place and we weren’t mentally tough enough. Leander did a good job to fight back at the end.”
Leander heads to Vandegrift Friday at 7:30 p.m. for the second game of the season before hosting Hays next Tuesday. Vista Ridge will look to rebound in the first of back-to-back home games against Austin Bowie Friday and Vandegrift on Friday.
Bradley said the team has faced some adversity with injuries and illness this season and the seniors have the extra motivation that they don’t have too many games left before it’s all over.
“This game shows that we have a good collection of guys that have experience at the varsity level,” Bradley said. “We just kind of picked them apart and got some stops and turnovers. They showed that no matter the lead, we can come back.”